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How to Use Gmail Advanced Search

Posted By Kevin On March 1, 2011 @ 11:51 AM In E-Mail Help | Comments Disabled

Finding older emails in your Gmail inbox can be a tedious process, to which you may have to devote a good deal of time, if you want to find an email which was sent a year ago. The good old way to find earlier messages is to click the All Mail icon which loads all the conversations (both sent and received) according to its date and time.


The above method is fine for recent messages that were sent only a few days ago. You can simply check the date in the far right hand side and read the subject line of all the earlier emails and open the one you want. However, this procedure is really time consuming, when you are searching for a message that was sent one year back or more. You can’t afford to read each and every subject line and hit the Earlier link at the bottom of the page over and over again, until you are able to pinpoint that specific message and move it to your inbox.

Advanced Gmail Search Operators

This is where Gmail search operators come really handy. They allow you to search older emails that are saved somewhere in your “Gmail’s Archive”.

Gmail search operators are nothing but a set of query words or symbols that perform special actions in Gmail search. All you have to do is remember the query syntax and supply the arguments with the query, as described in this article.

How To Use Gmail Search operators To Find older messages

To use a Gmail search operator, enter the corresponding syntax and its argument in the Gmail search box and hit the Enter key.

In the above example, to: is the search operator and Soumen is the argument. The “to:” operator searches your entire Gmail inbox for the emails which you have sent to your friend (Soumen, in this case).

Advanced Gmail Search operators

The following are the most common Gmail search operators one should learn:

Subject:

This operator searches for keywords and phrases that are present in the subject line of the message. Say you are searching for an email with the subject line “Photos of Vegas Trip”.

Just enter subject: photos of vegas trip in Gmail search box and hit the Enter key.

An example is shown below:

The subject operator need not be exact, which means you can add only a few words that may be present in the subject line of the already archived message.

From: sender

This operator searches for all messages that were received from a particular person. So if you want to find all the messages that were received from David, just type From:David in the Gmail search box and hit the Enter key.

An example is shown below:

The above operator also works with email addresses, which is useful when you do not remember the exact name of a client or employee. Simply type the email address after From: and Gmail will search all the older messages that were received from that particular email address.

To: receiver

This operator works exactly the same as the “From:” operator, the only difference is that the operator searches for messages which you had sent to a particular email address. So if you are searching for older emails that you had sent to John, type To:John in the search box and hit the Enter key.

If you do not remember the name of the person, you can include his email address, and the operator works just as well.

Find Emails that contain Attachments

If you want to filter older messages that contain documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photos or any other files as attachments; simply type has:attachment in Gmail search box and hit Enter.

This operator will search your Gmail inbox for all the messages that have attachments, an example is shown below:

Search for Archived Messages In “Labels”

You must be familiar with Gmail labels, right? Labels let you create folders within your email inbox so that you can organize messages per your requirements.

But over time, you may have noticed that some labels get filled with an overwhelming number of messages. To search for earlier messages in a particular Gmail label, you can combine earlier operators with the following syntax:

Label: label name operator.

An example search may be- Label: clients from:John

The above search will find all the earlier emails that have been received from John and labeled as “Clients”. You can combine the label operator with keywords, phrases, attachments, subject lines as discussed earlier.

Some examples are shown below:

- Label: photos subject: Vegas trip – Search for messages that have been labeled as “Photos” and whose subject line contain the words “Vegas trip”

- Label: jobs has:attachment – Search for messages that have been labeled as “Jobs” and have attachments.

Search for Messages In Inbox, Trash or Spam

Gmail provides three different operators to search for messages in the inbox, trash and spam folder. These are the commands you have to use:

In:inbox operator: Searches for messages that are present in your inbox only with the used operator.

An example search may be In:inbox subject: University – this query searches for all messages that are present in your inbox and have the word “university” as the subject line.

- In:spam operator: Searches for messages that are present in the spam folder with the used operator.

Example: In:spam from:someone@example.com. This query searches your spam folder and filters the search results to show messages only those were received from someone@example.com.

In:Trash operator: This query searches your Gmail trash folder with the used operator.

Example: In:Trash has:attachment. This query will filter all messages from your Gmail Trash folder that have files attached to it. This is immensely useful when you accidentally delete an email containing a document and want to quickly recover it to Gmail inbox.

As it turns out, Gmail search operators are really handy, if you know how to combine them and find the exact conversation you are looking for. There is a learning curve, but it’s actually worth it.

~Amit Banerjee


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